Chapter 10

To the beach, which for some of my more glamorously-homed relatives may mean a saunter along the Cannes seafront or the tedious clutter of super yachts which, in my opinion, ruin the harbour at St Tropez. Once, it was a lovely, unspoilt fishing village, but now? Sacre, and if you will, bleu! Not that I have been to either location, of course. However, as the female human resident is prone to watching National Geographic TV and perusing holiday features in garishly coloured newspaper supplements, as well as on her much-loved Candy Crush Saga hand-held computing machine, I know. I may be in the Shetland Islands – Les Isles Du Vent, the Swiss and Swiss French, not to mention French Swiss, call them – but I am veritably a traveller of the mind. A tourist of the spirit, a free and curious wanderer, engaged and voracious for new experience.

But this is the beach below the house in which Dexter The Devil Dog and myself live and breathe and have our exercise. Not a beach of golden Mediterranean sand but of grey and weed-slimed pebbles. I tread, as befits one of my girth and stately demeanour, carefully, while the Devil Dog skitters and scampers, runs, jumps and if you will cavorts like a canine possessed. Which he is. He is possessed with a tedious and indiscriminate energy. A lust for annoyance. In particular, for annoying moi.

The human custodians throw sticks, balls, pieces of plastic piping and without even discussing the matter internally, off he runs. Even into the sea, though I am pleased to note that he will not venture beyond mid-chest height, which for him is approximately eight old imperial inches or a good metric 20 centimetres. I, of course, built as I am with great stature and solidity, can withstand substantial tidal flows and wave action. Swimming, as I may have mentioned previously, I leave to my distant gene-pool sharers the Newfoundlands, with their webbed feet and hollow fibred coats. They are, indeed, like artificial fibred-carpets, which makes my own nickname, Rug, rankle even more. Just because my rather more au naturel hair tends to absorb water and lend me an appearance the male owner, with his Caledonian conceit, terms 'drookit'.

At any rate, we were on the beach, in as much as you can call this stony shelf a beach, taking the ozone, carefully navigating between boulders in my case and rampaging like an amphetamine- crazed monkey in Dexter's, when an irresistible  aroma overcame me. An aroma that called to me like the olfactory singing of roasting venison sausages, which I have only encountered once in my life and, the consumption of which led to me being sold into a life of caged teasing amid small children who should have known better but had been home educated and were therefore unsocialised brats.

The unsophisticated nasal passages and palate of the Devil Dog seemed not have detected anything untoward, but for me, there was only one direction in which to go, while the male custodian's back was turned. Yes, indeed. My large and generous heart quickened as I drew closer, and soon it was revealed: Its blubber rotted to a fine and overwhelmingly tempting jelly-like whiteness. A dead common seal, beautifully congealed into a bed of gooey delights.

Dexter was elsewhere, cavorting. The owner (male) was gesticulating angrily at a passing seabird, which appeared to have targeted him with some kind of guano. And so I was able to indulge myself by rolling contentedly in the aromatic treasure I had discovered. Soon my coat was securely soaked in a grease redolent of – how can I describe the smell? Fish, buried for several months in a pig graveyard, then mixed with horse manure. Clearly, I am imagining this combination, but oh, the joyous sense of immersion, or rediscovery, of homecoming!

The ignominy that followed hardly bears mentioning. The bodily immersion in the sea. The hosing down. Banishment to the bicycle shed. The consequent perfuming of the bicycles and dousing of myself in cheap Lynx deodorant, left over from the schooldays of the former household residents, male offspring of the custodians. There was even horrific talk of shaving.

This went on for weeks. Dexter, of course, was vastly amused. The short-coated, cleanliness-obsessed, non aromatic little mutt!

Still, during the long nights spent sleeping alone on the cold wooden floors of the unheated hut, alongside objects called Raleigh, Surly, Dawes and Specialized, I pondered my fate, and thought to myself, every time my nostrils twitched in memory of that delicious odour:

It was worth it.

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